Cal wins Pac-12/WCC Challenge in convincing fashion

Photo of Ainsley Radell of Cal Beach Volleyball
Al Sermeno/KLC fotos/Courtesy

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The Bears hopped on the Stanford sand courts this past weekend for the Pac-12/WCC Challenge and took first place in the tournament by a convincing margin, finishing the weekend with a 3-1 record.

No. 12 Cal began the weekend with a morning match against No. 11 Pepperdine. All of the Bears’ pairs came with their own energy, but sophomore Ainsley Radell and junior Jordan Polo’s win on court two drove the day’s success.

After Radell’s final point secured the first win of the day for the Bears, the rest of the duos followed in her footsteps and performed skillfully.

Senior Maddie Micheletti and freshman Maya Gessner were partners again this weekend, and played in just their second match together against Pepperdine. After splitting the first two sets, Micheletti clinched the win for Cal with a 15-11 final set victory.

Cal ultimately defeated Pepperdine 4-1, a win that had the squad excited to play its next match against No. 10 Stanford in the afternoon.

This season, Cal and Stanford have been switching off wins, a pattern that has made for even closer, more contentious matchups. On Saturday afternoon, however, the blue and gold endured three early losses on courts two, four and five that handed Stanford a victory.

But in spite of losing, the Bears did not give up and allow the Cardinal to sweep them.

Seniors Mima Mirkovic and Caroline Schafer performed with a purpose, beating the top spot Stanford duo 21-14, 21-17. Following their teammate’s success, senior Alexia Inman and freshman Grace Paulson split their first two sets but captured the win against Stanford duo Maya Harvey and Maddi Kriz with a 15-7 win in the third set.

The Bears’ grit and determination was evident in the way they fought back and continued to play despite the decisive loss.

“After we lost to Stanford, we were definitely bummed because it could have gone either way,” Radell said. “We were hungrier because we lost, and we took more things away from it.”

The Bears began the day of matches Sunday with a 4-1 win against St. Mary’s to put the blue and gold in the championship match against Stanford. Each match was complete in just two sets, proving Cal’s quality in comparison to an unranked opponent.

On Sunday afternoon, the tournament’s championship game commenced. The two rivals battled it out, and the Bears ultimately exacted revenge on the Cardinal with a decisive 4-1 victory.

Partners Radell and Polo took advantage of playing in the first match with a 21-19, 21-16 win that set the tone for the rest of the evening.

“That was one of the most intense games I’ve played in this season because of the environment,” Radell said. “It was really exciting starting off the game strong and getting a win for our team.”

The Bears look forward to continuing their winning streak against next weekend’s competition. The squad will travel across the Bay Area to Palo Alto in order to face off against Grand Canyon University on Saturday and Loyola Marymount and San Jose State on Sunday.

“We have important duels coming up this weekend,” Radell said. “We need to make sure to do our job and make sure to get as many wins as possible to be in the top four in the West [Coast Conference].”

The pressure is on for the Bears to make it to the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship. To qualify, Cal must rank No. 8 in the nation. To reach this point, the Bears are looking to earn a perfect 3-0 record this upcoming weekend.

Alisa Steel covers beach volleyball. Contact her at [email protected].